Legalised murder: US airforce kills 12 Afghan police
Twelve Afghan security forces servicemen have been killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan, according to local police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi. Washington says the incident was a case of friendly fire. The US forces haven’t yet confirmed the number of casualties. The friendly-fire incident occurred in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province late on Friday afternoon, the …
On the 50th Anniversary of the Deadly Detroit Rebellion, There Is Celebration, Controversy and Continued White Supremacy
People are taking a closer look at the 1967 Detroit riot and the devastating white power schemes that followed.
Author’s note: This article originally appeared in a somewhat different format in the summer 2017 issue of the Fifth Estate.“I calmed the tremor in my gut. I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creatures in the history of the world, the white man in a suit.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, The SympathizerThe normal pattern in our culture is to manufacture amnesia about past unpleasantries such as slavery, Native American genocide, the Vietnam war, and other assaults against people of color. It is surprising, therefore, that those in power have invested considerable resources in high-profile attention to the 1967 eruption in Detroit that brought federal troops to the streets of the city.The Detroit Historical Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts and other local institutions have been funded to do various reflections. Detroit media is involved, as well.Unless you are in Detroit, it’s difficult to grasp how consumed the city is with this anniversary. But it’s not just local. The Hollywood team of Kathryn Biegelow and Mark Boal, award-winners for hyper-violent movies like “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” will premier their latest film “Detroit” in the city on July 25. It will open nationwide August 4. It is based on the torture and massacre of three teenagers by Detroit police officers in the Algiers motel during the rebellion. Why is the establishment making such a big deal out of the anniversary? Most likely, because it thinks it’s important to settle some issues in their favor. But that’s not all there is to it. In numerous discussions with Detroiters and suburbanites, it is clear that there is a sincere effort to understand what happened in 1967 and what it means for today.Much of the debate revolves around what to call the events of July 1967. Many white people resist the term rebellion in favor of riot. As I argued in a 2016 Detroit Free Press op-ed piece:The history of criminalizing most behavior by blacks goes back to the origins of white supremacy itself. Moral supremacy by fiat, force and power is one of white supremacy’s core components. And as we know from whites destroying property by throwing tea into the Boston Harbor, rebellion is in the eye of the beholder.Especially in a nation whose founding mythology honors insurrection, the word rebellion has serious legitimacy. Riot on the other hand conveys criminality. Hence, most media and many whites prefer riot. Perhaps more importantly, using the term riot perpetuates white denial that blacks would have anything to rebel about.Of course words matter. But there is also a lot to the cliché that actions speak louder. Specifically, the actions that white power took following the 1967 uprising powerfully suggest they thought it was a rebellion. For hundreds of years, white power’s reaction to real and perceived threats has been punishment and control. Post-rebellion Detroit is no exception. The fires of July 1967 still smoldered when the city council agreed to finance a massive purchase of machine guns, armored personnel carriers, ammunition and other military supplies for an enlarged Detroit Police Department.Mayor Jerome P Cavanagh also advocated that the federal government subsidize a “back-to-the-land” movement to the South as a means of reducing the black population in northern cities like Detroit. The cost, he argued, would be much less per family than transferring the same family to the welfare rolls.Cavanagh and the other proponents of ethnically cleansing cities of blacks who migrated north to escape Jim Crow in the early to mid 20th century sensed that capitalism had a problem. The growing mobility of capital, combined with technological displacement, was and still is making vast numbers of the urban industrial workforce superfluous.The urban ethnic cleansing scheme fizzled. Instead, other strategies were deployed.No one better expressed the prevailing white attitude guiding the plans than long-serving white supremacist, suburban Oakland County executive, L. Brooks Patterson. As recently as 2014, in a New Yorker magazine profile, he reaffirmed an earlier statement, "What we’re going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.”Patterson’s degree of honesty is unusual. In fact, if you think of white power as a corporation, one of its biggest divisions would be the department of denial, confusion and obfuscation. When it comes to Detroit, that branch has done effective work. Rather than acknowledge the overt and covert racist motivations of government and corporate policies toward the city, it promulgated alternative explanations.First and foremost, as race-based capitalism has always done, it blames the victims. There are many variations on this trope. The most common is that Detroit degenerated because the rebellion caused whites to flee the city.This turns cause and effect upside down. Did white flight and other forms of disinvestment intensify after 1967? Yes. But it started far earlier. Racialized relocation of jobs from Detroit was well underway by the1940s. Repressive treatment of blacks by the all-white police force was a constant. So was every other form of racial discrimination. By 1967, African Americans had plenty to rebel against. And they did.Another rationalization links Detroit’s current problems to those of the Detroit automakers and/or the financial crisis of 2007-2009. To be sure, globalization of the auto industry severely disrupted Michigan based GM, Ford and Chrysler. And, yes, the hydra-headed economic crisis of 2007-2009 unleashed other troubles as well.The problem is that macro forces of this magnitude should have been evenly distributed across southeast Michigan. But they weren’t. Predominantly black Detroit suffered adversely in ways the white suburbs did not. Which is exactly the outcome that race-based capitalism is designed to achieve.How did they do it? Recognizing the synergistic effect of these policies, following is a partial list of what white power did:Disinvestment by white capital and white people accelerated. Dramatically reinforcing the segregationist message for all to see was the relocation of the Detroit Lions football team and the Detroit Pistons basketball team to distant suburbs.The Detroit Public School system was essentially destroyed by a series of state government overseers. This had the collateral effect of damaging neighborhoods, property values and thus tax revenues.The mass incarceration of black Detroiters in outstate prisons permanently devastated thousands of lives and families. It also reduced the voting power of Detroit citizens while increasing that of white rural areas.The state legislature and suburban voters rejected regional mass transit more than 25 times, thus deterring low-income Detroiters from getting to where jobs had moved.Massive water shutoffs and denial of other basic services further burdened Detroit neighborhoods.Onerous costs were foisted on Detroit taxpayers to subsidize private investment in downtown entertainment venues patronized primarily by white suburbanites.Severe insurance and financial redlining was imposed on Detroit residents.Mass foreclosures and abandonments now give the city the run-down look so beloved of white filmmakers and photographers.State laws were passed that restricted the ability of the city government to collect taxes from Detroit employers.Detroit’s African Americans, including Detroit’s first black mayor, Coleman A. Young, were relentlessly demonized by Detroit area media, led by the Detroit News. To this day, the self-appointed spokesorgan for the superiority of white people, the whites News reassures whites with incessant messages of black criminality, corruption and incompetence.City government was steadily disempowered by the formal and informal transfer of control to regional authorities, public/private partnerships, non-governmental organizations, private business and the foundation-industrial complex.Finally, the complete disenfranchisement of Detroit voters was achieved via “emergency management” control by the state government, which was then used to engineer Detroit’s widely publicized federal bankruptcy.Visionary OrganizingNothing is off-limits in Detroit. As increasing sections of already marginalized populations are being moved into a post-capitalist world—no wage work; no commodity consumption—people in Detroit are involved in autonomous projects that are a hotbed of new thinking and action in the theory and practice of what comes next.These include everything from innovative urban agriculture to new approaches to education, community conflict resolution such as Peace Zones For Life, experiments in new technology-driven, community-based manufacturing, inventive media, art and spirituality.Revolutions always begin with creating a new world in the shell of the old. Detroit is on its way.
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The Indonesian factory has been accused of labor violations, including poverty wages.
While President Trump is promoting "Made in America" week, we turn now to look at a recent investigation by The Guardian that revealed workplace abuse, grueling production targets and deplorably low pay at an Indonesian factory that makes clothing for Ivanka Trump’s label. Many of the female workers at the factory in West Java say the pay is so low that they live in constant debt and can’t afford to live with their own children. We speak to journalist Krithika Varagur in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.
TranscriptThis is a rush transcript.Copymay not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: It’s "Made in America" week, according to the White House. This is President Trump speaking earlier this week.PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re here today to celebrate American manufacturing and to showcase the amazing products from all 50 states made in the U.S.A. Remember in the old days you used to have "made in the U.S.A.," "made in America"? But made in the U.S.A., we’re going to start doing that again. We’re going to put that brand on our product, because it means it’s the best. … We want to build, create and grow more products in our country, using American labor, American goods and American grit. When we purchase products made in the U.S.A., the profits stay here, the revenue stays here, and the jobs, maybe most importantly of all, they stay right here in the U.S.A.AMY GOODMAN: While President Trump is promoting "Made in America" week, we turn now to look at a recent investigation by The Guardian that revealed workplace abuse, grueling production targets and deplorably low pay at an Indonesian factory that makes clothing for the Ivanka Trump brand label. Many of the female workers at the factory in West Java say the pay is so low, they live in constant debt and can’t afford to live with their own children. This comes as three Chinese activists with the group China Labor Watch were imprisoned, though now released, after they were arrested while investigating labor conditions at a factory manufacturing Ivanka Trump brand shoes in China.Well, last month, we spoke to the journalist who broke the story, Krithika Varagur, in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. She talked about what she discovered in her investigation.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: I went to the factory in West Java, about three hours from Jakarta, that makes clothes for G-III Apparel Group, which is this global conglomerate that makes clothes for a bunch of high-profile brands, including Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld and Ivanka Trump. What I found there was fairly typical of other Indonesian garment factories, which is to say there were quite a few labor violations, according to the workers that I spoke with, including consistent unpaid overtime or poorly compensated overtime, an extremely low minimum wage—still legal, I want to emphasize that, but quite low for Indonesia and quite low for Asia—and reports of verbal abuse from company management.AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the people you met there, particularly the young women, and what they had to say about their work conditions.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Yeah. So this is a pretty large factory, almost 3,000 people, and the vast majority of people who work there are women. And often they are the breadwinners for their whole family. The fact about this minimum wage and the reason this town has become quite attractive to garment factories is that this minimum wage is incredibly low even for Indonesia. It’s about $173 a month. And this means that if you’re from out of town, which is to say, if your parents don’t have a house here that you can stay in, you can’t afford—you basically can’t afford to have your children live with you. According to many labor activists, this is not a living wage. One prominent activist that I quoted called it a "poverty wage." And the working moms that I met, including the one that was prominently featured in my piece, simply can’t afford to have their kids live with them. They live in a different town with their grandparents and see their parents about once a month.AMY GOODMAN: You talk about this area being—where this factory is, being particularly low wages even for Indonesia. What? Like you said, $160 a month, which would be what? Forty dollars a week, which would be well under a dollar an hour, because also you describe people saying they’re forced to work overtime and not be compensated.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Right. This wage is quite low for Indonesia. In a neighboring town, for example, Purwakarta in West Java, the minimum wage is over 3 million rupiah, whereas here it’s only 2.3. When I spoke to the manpower ministry of this district, they were quite insistent that this wage was important to keep them competitive in the global garment market. But, of course, when you look at it from the global perspective, this wage is about 40 percent lower than what the equivalent factory workers are making in China. And it was reported earlier this month in The New York Times that the G-III Apparel Group was looking to move to cheaper labor, even cheaper than China, and had been closing down some of its factories. So you see this downstream movement, chasing lower and lower wages, which I think this is a part of.AMY GOODMAN: And that issue of China is particularly relevant when it comes to Ivanka brand—Ivanka Trump brand clothes. We just reported on the three investigators for China Labor Watch who went to a factory in China, which actually pays more than the factory you visited in Indonesia. They were investigating the conditions there, and they’ve all been arrested, which is unusual even for China right now.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Yeah, it’s certainly concerning. And I believe that the Ivanka Trump brand has distanced itself from that particular factory, because they don’t currently produce things there anymore. I would say it’s a disturbing development.AMY GOODMAN: Talk to us about Alia, the young woman you met in the West Java factory.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Yeah. Without giving too much away, she’s been working all her life. She’s a mother to two children. And what I would emphasize is that she is not unique within the factory. She said there’s dozens of moms just like her whose main interactions with their kids are in photos on their phone that they store up when they visit them once a month.And, you know, they’re doing honest work. They’re getting a legal wage. And this factory is not beyond the pale. It’s a very, you know, ordinary Indonesian factory. But the fact is, even working day after day, the money they make is simply not enough. And there’s just a great, great distance from the lives these women live, these working moms live, and the professional rhetoric of Ivanka Trump, who wrote a book on women in the workplace.AMY GOODMAN: Now, you actually share the sort of gist of the book, Ivanka Trump’s book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, with this young woman, this factory worker at the West Java factory. What did she say about what Ivanka recommends when it comes to "rewriting the rules for success"?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: I mean, she thought it was funny. She just started laughing. This work-life balance rhetoric is totally alien to women of her class and in their position. And they don’t balance their work and lives because they want to, but because they have to. And yeah, I mean, there’s just a huge gap between their lived experience and the rhetoric that’s being pushed in Ivanka Trump’s book. So, they thought it was pretty funny. She and many of them did know who she was, but they weren’t familiar with the intricacies of her brand and so forth.AMY GOODMAN: So she can’t see her children but once a month, when she travels—makes enough money for the gasoline to go hours away to her family, who—where her children are being raised by their grandparents.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: That’s correct.AMY GOODMAN: You also talk about President Trump calling out Indonesia last March for having an unfavorable trade balance with the United States, saying that Indonesia was treating foreign—was cheating foreign importers. Can you explain how that fits into this picture?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Sure. Indonesia is one of the countries that Donald Trump singled out for having what he called an unfair trade balance with the United States. I believe as of last year it was a $13 billion surplus. And he promised to correct that, as it were, and return jobs and the import-export balance in America’s favor. So it’s ironic in that context, that having singled out Indonesia as one of these countries, his daughter’s clothing brand uses Indonesian labor.AMY GOODMAN: And Donald Trump keeps on saying he will penalize companies that go to other countries, talking about bringing jobs back to America. Now, this company, Ivanka Trump’s brand, you don’t always know that it is the Ivanka Trump brand, is that right? The name is different, and they’ve even changed the Ivanka Trump brand name in some cases.KRITHIKA VARAGUR: That’s correct. It’s been sort of plummeting in popularity in various metro areas in recent months, to the point where G-III, which is the apparel group that owns Ivanka Trump, has been discreetly relabeling her merchandise to a brand called Adrienne Vitadini, apparently without informing Ivanka Trump’s brand, in hopes of moving it off the shelves. I’m not sure what the effects of that have been, but I think it points to the fact that her merchandise is kind of getting tougher to move off the shelves.AMY GOODMAN: Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Did you talk to the workers at this factory? Were they aware of all the controversy around the Muslim ban one and two of the current president, President Trump, the father of Ivanka Trump, whose clothes are named after her, though she’s distanced herself while she is an adviser to her father in the White House?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Yeah, certainly some of them were aware of Donald Trump, and for obvious reasons. Since almost every worker in this factory is a Muslim, they were not fans of him. But this factory town, like many other factory towns in Indonesia, is a one-horse town. You either keep this job, or you work on the farm. So like one of the people quoted in my article said, they are not in a position to make employment decisions based on their principles. So, as much as they have personal problems with working—with indirectly supporting a family that has announced a Muslim ban, they can’t do much about it right now.AMY GOODMAN: Have you gotten a response from the Ivanka Trump brand? The publisher of Ivanka Trump’s book, Adrian Zackheim, told ABC News in a statement, "The book highlights the author’s continuing commitment to inspire and empower women to define success on their own terms and to create the lives they want to live." Have they responded directly to your piece and exposé about the conditions in this one plant in Indonesia that makes Ivanka Trump brand clothes?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: No, not yet.AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you’d like to add about what you found and how people in the plant feel? This is a nonunion plant?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: There are two small unions represented, but they are quite a small fraction of the total factory population. So they’re less than 10 percent of the factory.AMY GOODMAN: And are many of the factories in Indonesia—are there a number that are going to this Subang district of Indonesia, where the minimum wage, which, to say the least, is extremely minimal, is even lower than other parts of Indonesia?KRITHIKA VARAGUR: Yeah, there are quite a few Korean apparel groups in this region, and there are, I think, over 300 companies in Subang as of this year. It’s become quite—it’s becoming a semi-prominent industrial zone within the last two decades, after spending a long time as an agrarian community.And in terms of the factory as a whole, I would just say it is a very run-of-the-mill Indonesian garment factory. But, of course, the reason that it bears a second look is because of the connection to a very specific brand that is built on women in the workplace. So, I think it’s important to look at the supply chain of a brand that positions itself in that way.AMY GOODMAN: [Krithika Varagur, speaking to us from Jakarta], Indonesia, about her Guardian investigation, "Revealed: reality of life working in an Ivanka Trump clothing factory." We’ll link to that at democracynow.org. All Ivanka Trump brand apparel are made abroad. President Trump declared this week "Made in America" week.
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